Saturday, May 19, 2012

Square Enix India and the Future of Indian Game Development

Japanese Game Development Giant and Publisher Square Enix recently announced their plans of expanding to the Indian subcontinent following which they announced a Game Development Contest in the hopes of unearthing some of the best talent for developing games.
The idea is to find talent, nurture talent and to work with them in the future to develop games for the growing handheld and smartphone market. For this, the Square Enix team, captained by Mr. Fukushima has been conducting roadshows in New Delhi, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Chennai. The roadshow is to help Square Enix connect with many students, indie developers, free lancers and game companies.  This base in India is to act as an active participant in the Japanese Giant’s active participation in the handheld segment. Square Enix’s current plans are to setup offices in the cities of Hyderabad, Bangalore and Mumbai, with each of these subsidiaries (probably) focusing on specific needs of the studio’s game projects.
In his visit to Hyderabad, India, Square Enix Co-Founder and Honorary Chairman, Yasuhiro Fukushima organized a roadshow offering Game Development Contest participants more insight into the company and explained rewards on offer for the contest. Accompanied by Mayank Mathur, India division team member, Fukushima explained and offered insight on why Square Enix was so eager to hop into the Smartphone development bandwagon so early.
In a candid exchange of words, where Mayank’s fluent Japanese offered to play the part of a translator, Fukushima poured his deepest thoughts on why he believed Square Enix’s foray into the Smartphone, Handheld market was necessary to add to their contribution to the game industry and also on how it could help Square Enix grow from a hardcore games company to an entertainment service provider across various platforms.
In 2003, Square Enix was formed as a merger between Masafumi Miyamoto’s Square and Yasuhiro Fukushima’s Enix – two big players in the Japanese entertainment industry offering books, manga, games and more. Since then, the company has been known and applauded widely for it’s beautiful RPG titles like Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest and the Kingdom Hearts series. Mr. Fukushima offered that Enix came about following a PC game development contest called “Game Hobby Program Contest” in Japan. Apparently, during his time, if a PC game sold more than 800-1000 copies, it was considered a blockbuster. Fukushima worked with game developers who built games for the contest that sky rocketed Japanese PC game sales to over 20,000 copies helping him start his company’s foray into Gaming. By bringing this idea to India, he predicts that the same process will repeat itself.

He believes that instead of working with established studios, it is essential to find and unearth talent – people who are passionate about playing and making games, people who are not caught in the procedural functioning of an established studio, people who still have ample creative zeal. He believes that contests build strong groups through which these people can tap their hidden potential in creating some of the most unique and engrossing game ideas that can be transformed into a great gaming experience.
An Architecture Degree drop out, A 22 year old Yasuhiro Fukushima travelled across the world in search of  many jobs for survival with a dream of starting a Company. From Japan to the United States, Cambodia to Africa, Singapore to India, Fukushima has traveled extensively and learnt many cultures and tastes. By building a strong team, he would love to pour his thoughts, ideas and cultural experiences to facilitate building fascinating and interesting games that the audience in India and other parts of the world will come to enjoy.
When I asked him about how Square Enix planned on combating the problem of Piracy that is predominant in the Indian Game Market, he said, “I travelled here in November 2011 and shared ideas during a Nasscom Round Table conference. We’ve decided on building a Unified Payment Model that will allow gamers of all ages to pay for games or products without having to borrow credit or debit cards from their parents.”
He also offered that this Unified Payment Model could be used by other companies on the platform to turn piracy into incoming revenue. More details on the Unified Payment Model will be revealed soon it seems.
Currently, The Indian Games Development industry offers a host of services across various platforms to major game development giants across the world. Although, their services are exceptional, it gets extremely difficult for these highly talented studios to build their own games. The fear of taking risks is high in addition to which, a major problem is funding and sustainability. Fukushima predicts that in the next 2 or 3 years, India is to witness a game development boom that will allow major fundraisers to participate with companies to build games.
There is going to be a major change in the gaming space that will bring gamers and developers closer with more forums, game communities, fan-created content and so much more. More importantly, due to the amount of innovation, advertising, availability and purchasing models, he predicts that taking risks is going to be fun and rewarding.
Although Fukushima took a 5 year break from Square Enix’s operations, he has closely observed the game industry play out the paradigm shift from hardcore gaming devices to casual and handheld spaces. While we’ve seen a strong rise or drop of software and hardware sales for legacy platforms, Smartphones and Handheld sales, entertainment software for these platforms have grown very strongly. Having Square Enix make games for the casual and hardcore audiences on handheld devices will allow the company to offer their products to a growing audience on these platforms across the world.
“Studios and development groups associated with Square Enix are to benefit greatly due to the it’s brand presence and quality of content that Square Enix has delivered over many years. Hence, the fear of funding or sustainability can be easily put to rest.”
I asked him if he had any advise for students or budding talent who’re looking to make it in the Games industry, “If you are a Student, I have to tell you that it might look big and difficult initially. You might not know where to begin. The trick is to make friends who are very passionate towards gaming and game development. The amount of learning that is gained out of discussion, debate and projects is greater than any other in this world. I urge that you create your own path. It will get very difficult to establish yourself in a market that is thriving with competition but, remain dedicated to your passion because dedication will automatically make you learn and master the skills required to become a successful artist,” he advised students before he left for the day to get some rest and prepare for his roadshow in Bangalore and Mumbai.
I left the venue honored that I had the opportunity to talk to a very influential man, a man who helped build gaming from a very young age, a man who’s currently counted as the 40th  richest man in Japan, a man who is single handedly, actively funding over a 100 villages in Cambodia, providing them money so their children can go to school and grow up to become great individuals, a man who’s humbleness is outstanding, a man who’s continuing vision for Square Enix is allowing the company move forward in style. A man who is full of inspiration. wishes Square Enix all the very best with their Indian Project and wish success in the days to come. As for you, fellow gamer, be prepared to meet some great experiences.

Please Note: This is a cross-post from where I write.